California commission plans hearing on long-delayed HECA power project

The California Energy Commission committee assigned to conduct proceedings on the Application for Certification (AFC) for the Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) coal gasification power project has scheduled a March 7 hearing to consider the applicant’s motion to reinstate the AFC proceeding and commission staff’s opposing motion to terminate the AFC proceeding.

The hearing will be at the commission’s offices in Sacramento.

In July 2008, Hydrogen Energy International LLC filed an AFC seeking authority to construct and operate the HECA project, an integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) facility rated at a nominal gross generating capacity of 390 MW. The project would be located near the unincorporated community of Tupman in western Kern County, California, seven miles west of the city limit of Bakersfield. Ownership of the project changed to Hydrogen Energy California LLC in 2010. In 2012, this company filed the present Amended Application for Certification.

The project would be fueled by a combination of coal (about 75% of feedstock) and petroleum coke (25%), and would inject its emissions of CO2 into an underground location for carbon sequestration. The location was to have been the Elk Hills Oil Field. However, circumstances have resulted in applicant seeking a different location for carbon sequestration. The company now says it plans to sequester the CO2 in underground formations without enhanced oil recovery being part of the project.

In July 2015, after a hearing on a motion brought by intervenors Sierra Club, HECA Neighbors, and Association of Irritated Residents to terminate the AFC, and having considered a request by applicant for a six-month suspension of the AFC, the committee issued an order denying the motion to terminate and granting a six-month suspension with conditions. That suspension ended on Jan. 6 of this year. HECA filed a request to reinstate the AFC proceeding on Nov. 30, 2015. On Dec. 15, 2015, commission staff recommended that the AFC be terminated.

Saying it now has a more complete understanding of geologic storage potential for captured CO2, Hydrogen Energy California on Nov. 30 had asked the commission to lift this review suspension. In May 2015, Hydrogen Energy California asked for this suspension after it had failed to come up with an agreement to sell captured CO2 from this project for enhanced oil recovery. That forced it to look at the potential for geologic storage only, with no oil recovery.

“As has been suggested in its monthly status reports, HECA has determined to permanently sequester CO2 beneath the Project site utilizing Class VI wells permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” said the Nov. 30 HECA request to lift the suspension. “This approach eliminates the need to contract with a CO2 off-taker, as well as the need to permit facilities and analyze associated environmental impacts at a site other than the Project site, all of which greatly simplify the environmental review and permitting of the Project.”

The current version of the project would gasify blends of petroleum coke and coal to produce hydrogen to fuel a combustion turbine operating in combined cycle mode. The gasification component would produce 180 million standard cubic feet per day (MMSCFD) of hydrogen to feed a 400 MW (gross), 288 MW (net) combined cycle plant providing California with dispatchable baseload power to the grid. The gasification component would also capture approximately 130 MMSCFD of carbon dioxide (or approximately 90% at steady-state operation). The HECA project would also produce approximately 1 million tons of fertilizer for domestic use.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.